Martin, 'I committed to doing my best'

USC receivers coach Tee Martin named Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year after closing with three Scout five-star recruits on National Signing Day. Martin discussed with Scout how he was able to do it and how 2013 provided motivation.

When USC receivers coach Tee Martin left the Founders Club National Signing Day dinner on Feb. 6, 2013 the only thing he felt was drained.

Martin, tasked with recruiting solely the East Coast and the South in his first year at USC, had to watch from over a thousand miles away as Scout five-star recruits Jalen Ramsey, a safety from Brentwood (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy, and Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas flipped their commitments from USC to Florida State in the days leading to National Signing Day.

The Trojans only filled 11 of 15 available scholarships in their 2013 recruiting class. Their National Signing Day splash non-existent, as seven of their committed players were already on campus as early enrollees and the signatures left to be collected signed elsewhere.

USC's two biggest recruiting prizes were not on campus and would never be; now choosing to become Seminoles instead of Trojans.

That night in the Founders Club, in front of Trojan boosters and fans, Martin felt there was little celebration to be had.

Once the preseason No. 1 team with arguably the nation's top recruiting class despite scholarship reductions, the 7-6 2013 Trojans not only lost more games than expected; they lost recruits crucial to their future, too.

Martin walked out of that dinner knowing only two things: he wanted to commit himself to recruiting the city of Los Angeles and he never wanted to suffer what he currently felt again.

"I let people down, I fell short of the job I set out to do," Martin told Scout. "It was this feeling in my stomach that I felt like I could've done more."

In his second year recruiting for USC, he certainly did.

This, in a season that lent every obstacle, despite a winning record, against successful recruiting.

USC Athletic Director Pat Haden fired coach Lane Kiffin after a 3-2 start.

Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron was promoted to interim coach before leaving the program when learning Steve Sarkisian was named Kiffin's permanent replacement.

Then for the Trojans, it was on to their third head coach of the 2013 season, when quarterbacks coach Clay Helton was tasked in leading the Trojans to a Las Vegas Bowl victory.

USC recruits had multiple reasons to turn away from the unstable USC environment.

Martin admitted he too over the past year didn't always know what the future of USC football held.

At times there was no head coach. There were no coordinators.

"At some points, it almost felt like there was nothing left to sell," Martin said. "Every kid we recruited heard nothing but negative stuff about the USC program.

"But it was the ‘Trojan Family' I sold. And it prevailed."

Martin has been named Scout's 2014 Pac-12 Conference Recruiter of the Year after closing on National Signing Day with three Scout five-star recruits including Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco offensive lineman Damien Mama, Gardena (Calif.) Serra two-way player Adoree Jackson, and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly two-way player Juju Smith.

None of whom verbally committed to USC prior to National Signing Day; all of whom had their choice to play for nearly any football program in the country.

"These commitments were even bigger because of the season we had," Martin explained.

"Everybody has a role in the style of which we recruit," USC coach Steve Sarkisian said on National Signing Day. "I think [quarterbacks coach Clay Helton and Martin] did a great job in terms of the transition. I'm proud of both guys and their willingness to continue recruit under USC, even with some uncertainty."

So how did Martin do it?

He set out in L.A. to evaluate talent, treat each recruit special, and ultimately get them signed.

"That was key, to keep the players in L.A. and to get them to USC," Martin said. "That was the difference between this year and last year. I had to focus on relationships and the recruits' families."

The relationships developed, Martin said, played what he believes to be the biggest role in getting the recruits to eventually sign.

"I have to put everything for them on the table," he explained. "Any questions they asked, I had to answer. You have to be honest. And sometimes these guys would tell me they wanted to go somewhere else, so I had to find an answer to why they would want to come to USC."

Haden's hiring of Sarkisian was the final piece in the recruiting effort.

"When we got Coach [Sarkisian] in, he had a short window to help get it done and he did. He was clutch.

"Closing with these kids was the epitome of a team effort."

Martin said he did not know on signing day if the end result would match the effort over the last year.

"Everything that you can do to recruit a kid, or recruit a family -- unofficial visits, home visits -- I did it," he said, admitting he felt good about his chances with all three five-star prospects.

Because of Martin's efforts, Sarkisian felt good about the Trojans' signing day chances, too.

"Tee did a fantastic job," Sarkisian said. "His energy, his work ethic, his relentlessness in recruiting has been tremendous."

Martin explained he felt so close to top-target Adoree Jackson that if the local product wasn't choosing USC, Martin feels Jackson would have called to inform him before announcing on national television.

"The fact that he didn't tell me that he wasn't coming, I feel like he was coming. That's all I had to go on," Martin said. "If we didn't do a good job recruiting [Jackson] then I wouldn't know what it takes to get a kid, period."

As five-star after five-star, after five-star, picked up a USC hat on National Signing Day, Martin was overcome with emotion.

He deflected the chance to speak on personal accomplishment.

"Coach [Sarkisian] deserves a lot of the credit," Martin said. "He was clutch when he needed to be."

For Martin, closing with Mama, Jackson, and Smith was a reward for the entire staff – both past and present.

"Coach Kiffin allowed me to recruit the city," he said. "Ed [Orgeron] really recommitted to the city. It was a team effort then from our new staff, [recruiting coordinator] Peter Sirmon, [running backs coach] Johnny Nansen, [defensive backs coach] Keith Heyward, Coach Sark, all the guys… we all got it done."

Martin, with three five-star signatures on 2014's National Signing Day, set a new precedent for himself in terms of recruiting.

He knows closing with that big of a bang wasn't easy and it won't always happen, "but that's always the goal," he said.

A year later, Martin walked out of the Founders Club National Signing Day dinner on Feb. 5 drained once again.

This time, however, the feeling was one Martin looks forward to experiencing all over again.

Note:
USC filled all 19 of its available scholarships this year, signing Scout's No. 10 rated recruiting class in the country.

In 2015, USC will be able to fill a full allotment of 25 scholarships for the first time in three years since the end of the NCAA's imposed sanctions.

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